Lead Generation vs. Brand Awareness: What to Prioritize?

Key points

  1. While lead generation often takes the spotlight, building brand awareness is crucial because it makes lead generation activities easier, particularly for cold outreach.
  2. Before focusing on brand awareness, it’s important to solidify your brand by gathering testimonials, case studies, and proving your competency.
  3. Strategies for building brand awareness include leveraging the founder’s personality, community building, forming partnerships.

When it comes to lead generation in marketing, many overlook the potential of brand awareness as a powerful growth strategy for their business.

The battle of lead generation vs. brand awareness is often won by the former. After all, growing a brand so much that you’re known for it isn’t an easy feat. Those looking to generate leads shouldn’t neglect the fact that if they build a brand, it’ll also make their lead generation activities easier.

This is especially true for cold outreach. When the recipient already knows of your brand there's one less hurdle to overcome.

Let’s look at how lead generation and brand awareness compare, what the pros and cons are, and why it makes sense to give both your attention.

What is brand awareness?

Brand awareness is the concept of how well-known your brand is, and it’s one of many lead generation tactics you can use. There are four stages of brand awareness:

  1. no awareness

  2. recognition

  3. recall

  4. top of mind

Most companies start at the first stage, and their goal is to reach the last one. With that said, even reaching the second stage is of advantage to you as leads will have heard of you, they just don’t know what to associate the name with.

Your goal is to use different tactics to increase your brand awareness, for instance through marketing, word of mouth, or paid ads.

Brand building vs brand awareness

While the two terms are used interchangeably, they are not the same concept. Building awareness means to make your brand simply known to anyone. Those who build a brand follow a deeper strategy. They control the narrative and ensure that anyone has the same opinion and thoughts about the brand.

Building a brand encompasses everything from creating catchy slogans to iconic logos. When someone hears or reads about the brand, they should immediately have the logo in mind.

When to improve brand awareness

You’ve kick-started a new brand and are eager to make people aware of your brand. Not so fast, though. Before you throw money at something that might not be fruitful, take a step back, and think about the timing.

Most companies want to get the word out about their new business as quickly as possible. It makes sense, after all, you think that if everyone knows about you, they’ll become a customer. That is true if you offer a revolutionary product or service that doesn’t exist in that form yet. For everyone else, it’s not that simple.

Let’s assume you’ve launched a content agency that targets venture funded SaaS businesses. That already sets you apart, but how can you prove your competency? Without case studies, customer testimonials, reviews, and hard numbers to back up your claims, you won’t be able to easily build a brand.

Here’s an example of a great customer testimonial that we use across multiple marketing pages and blog posts:

SPP has been a key ingredient in our winning recipe for a successful productized service. It's easy for staff to use and customers love the client portal software for managing their service account.
Garrett Smith, Owner
GMB Gorilla
Garrett Smith

Begin by solidifying your brand, get a testimonial from your best customers, and write up convincing case studies that you can use in your content marketing strategy.

Further reading

5 brand awareness strategies to try

Once you have a solid brand in place, you can begin the actual work and hire a marketer who will help you build brand awareness. But how exactly? Here are a few methods to try out.

1. Founder personality

In the SaaS world, a lot of founders are the brand. They’ve worked for years on building it up, and their name is instantly recognizable. If you follow the same strategy, every new product or service will benefit from the foundation of your brand.

A good example is Justin Jackson, the founder of the podcast hosting company Transistor. His name is recognizable by those familiar with the SaaS industry, and Justin managed to build many more projects that benefitted from his brand.

Justin Jackson (mijustin) Twitter profile

The tricky thing is that it’s not the easiest strategy because building a personal brand requires a lot of work, starting with networking, launching social media campaigns, being available to talk to people with similar interests, and lastly, showcasing a lot of patience. Even then, not everyone will be able to build a personal brand that is well-known because most niches these days are already occupied.

There’s still merit in trying. A service or product that has an active founder behind it seems more personal, easier to approach, and that works well in the beginning stages of the company.

2. Community building

Building a community is another great way to create a strong brand. You can decide between a closed-off one in Slack, or an open forum-style one. The latter has the advantage that the discussions could be indexed in search engines, driving more traffic to your community, making your brand awareness efforts easier.

The tricky thing about communities is that you’ll need to moderate them. Spam is not uncommon, competitors will want to promote their own agenda, and some people might want to openly discuss what they don’t like about your brand. It’s up to you to find out if this effort is worth it and leads to you finding potential customers.

Communities have long-term effects and are often attracting people who want more information about a product or service. They are frequently in the phase of gathering information rather than focusing on growth.

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The good news is that your community members will educate others for free by sharing their stories and linking to your resources. At this point, they are not really a lead yet, but they could become one in the future—and they’ll remember you for providing them with the help they needed.

3. Partnership forming

Form partnerships with companies that have common interests. Staying with the content agency example, you could reach out to other agencies who don’t offer this type of service, for instance SEO agencies or web design agencies.

Here are a few partnership ideas:

  1. do a webinar on a topic of interest

  2. sponsor a newsletter, community, or an event

  3. take over a partner’s social media channels

  4. launch a spin-off service with a partner

  5. offer a partner’s service as an add-on to your services

SPP sponsorship Superpath

In the past, we’ve sponsored Superpath, a community that houses thousands of content experts. It’s the ideal place to introduce our client portal software to those looking to sell content, and streamline their processes.

4. Advertising activities

Advertising is another activity that could be part of your lead generation efforts. You’ll have to spend money, and measuring the results is tricky, but platforms such as Twitter make it easy to launch the campaigns. You could simply opt for sponsored tweets that bring attention to your brand, ideally something that sets you apart from the competition (sponsoring a non-profit, a case study, etc.).

You can also promote short 30-second video trailers that introduce your company so it’s easier to digest. Make sure that you adapt each ad for the platform you launch it for. Some require your videos to be in a 1:1 format.

5. Shareable content

With great content come many rewards, usually in the form of backlinks, social media mentions, and potential partnerships. It also increases your brand’s visibility because other companies will share your content. To make it easier, create content they can easily share. For instance, put your logo on infographics and add an embed code they can simply copy and paste into their content.

Most companies create entire landing pages for their shareable content because the backlinks will point back to it, which in turn increases your chances of getting it to rank for relevant keywords.

Measuring a brand awareness campaign

After investing time and money into increasing your brand awareness, you’ll want to see results. But how do you measure brand awareness? One way is to look at your search traffic: do you notice a spike in brand keyword searches?

You can also use software that tracks brand mentions across the internet, for instance on social media, in forums, or blogs. If people are increasingly mentioning you (without you having to do outreach or promotions), your awareness campaigns are making an impact.

Lead generation vs. brand awareness FAQ

What is the difference between brand awareness and lead generation?

Both go hand in hand. Increasing brand awareness is necessary if you want to build a successful lead generation funnel. Without anyone knowing your brand, chances are low they’ll buy from you.

How does brand awareness affect lead generation?

If there’s no brand awareness, the chances of lead generation being effective are lower. The more people recognize your brand, the easier it is for you to focus on lead generation and see results.

Is lead generation in the awareness stage?

According to the AIDA buyer’s journey, lead generation is one step below the awareness stage. Once people are aware of your brand, they are interested, increasing the chances of them buying something from you.

What are the main types of brand awareness?

If we exclude the stage of not having brand awareness at all, there are three more: recognition, recall, and top of mind.

What are the effects of brand awareness?

Your brand becomes increasingly recognizable, people will slowly not only know your brand name, they’ll also associate it with a certain product or service.

What is the difference between brand awareness and reach?

While brand awareness defines how well-known a brand is, its reach measures how many people come into contact with it. Most companies use different advertising and marketing activities to increase their reach.

What should your awareness stage ads do?

Ads targeting users in the awareness stage should address the problem they are having while presenting your solution as the one that can solve it.

Brand awareness vs. lead generation summarized

There are many challenges when it comes to lead generation. One of them is being unknown, which is why branding and lead generation go hand in hand. You cannot do one without the other—well, you can, but it won’t give you the results you were hoping for.

Take a look at the following best practices to get a better understanding of why both marketing efforts are worth it, and what to keep in mind:

  1. increase your brand awareness efforts once you have a solid product or service

  2. build strong case studies and collect customer testimonials before launching lead generation campaigns

  3. double-down on authority content marketing to increase your brand awareness

  4. identify prospects and score leads in order to focus on the right group

  5. your efforts can be measured if you’re using lead generation software

In conclusion, brand awareness is the foundation for your lead generation efforts. The better your brand building, the more will it lead to widespread recognition when you begin your lead generation.

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